Malawi’s economy could transform if agro-industrialisation is taken as a natural stage for structural transformation, Africa Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) and Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) have said.
Speaking ahead of the agro-industrialisation conference scheduled to take place during the 15th National Agriculture Fair, AICC chief executive officer Felix Lombe said agro-industrialisation has the potential to be the engine of growth by creating a well-paying, off-farm employment, increasing incomes and alleviating poverty.
He said urbanisation and population growth coupled with changing consumer habits present enormous opportunities for agro-industrialisation in Malawi, adding that it offers huge market opportunities for food processing and allied industries.
“Malawi has land, water in abundance and plenty labour force and this is naturally what is needed for agro-industrialisation to take place. Presently, it is being advised that countries should not be limited to one area.
“Elsewhere in Africa, agro-industrialisation is rapidly taking place and Malawi should not be an exception because we also have what it takes. The significance of coming together to discuss these issues is that we would be tackling a very important component in the entire structural transformation cycle,” he said.
Lombe, however, noted that the environmental policy in Malawi is hostile to innovation that would stimulate full agro-industrialisation, calling for review of the current status.
He said: “Private sector players in the country involved in agro-industrialisation say there is no any environment to grow beyond what they are doing. Those that want to join the sector find it difficult and give up within the first few years.”
On her part, MCCCI director of business environment and policy advocacy Madalitso Kazembe said agro-industrialisation brings a number of advantages for businesses and the economy at large.
“We see industrialisation as key to development and growth of private sector. Agriculture is the backbone of this economy, but there is no value addition in our agricultural products.
“Malawi usually exports raw products and they are in turn processed and imported by Malawi. We want to have our products such as tomatoes processed here, a development which will ultimately close the trade balance between Malawi and the region,” she said.
Among others, the conference seeks to discuss causes of the current agro-industrialisation stagnancy, explore and recommend possible sustainable strategies that can boost the agriculture sector.